When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders (Matthew 27:3, esv).
You won’t pass anyone on the street today named Judas. There’s probably not a Judas in your children’s class at school or on the company roster where you work. Most parents won’t saddle their newborn baby with that kind of baggage for the rest of their lives.
“Go down in history as someone who did the right thing about your wrong things.”
And yet Judas, despite the severity of the sin he committed—such that we can hardly think of a more infamous transgression throughout all of human history—is actually defined as much by what he did after his sin as by the sin itself.
That’s because failure isn’t ultimately in the falling, even if your falling is worse than you ever thought possible. Real failure is in the failure to deal with the fallout of the falling. The road of your life doesn’t fork at what you did (or didn’t do), at what you should have done (or shouldn’t have done). It forks at what you do next.
The Bible says when Judas saw the result of what his selling-out of Jesus had caused, he “changed his mind” concerning the rightness/wrongness of what he’d done. What’s interesting is that the word used in the original language—also translated as “felt remorse” (nasb) or being “seized with remorse” (niv)—is the same Greek word that everywhere else in Scripture is translated repentance. But the reason why “he repented” doesn’t appear in the biblical narrative about Judas is because it’s not descriptive of what he did.
All Judas did was wish he hadn’t done it.
Because his sin had just cost him everything.
Judas, you might be surprised to contemplate, was at one time a member in good standing on Jesus’ discipleship team. He’d been among those who were sent out to preach the kingdom of God. He’d even been singled out for a valuable position, having been placed in charge of the money—sort of the CFO of the organization. He was an important person doing important work.
But now he was on the outs. The disciples obviously wanted nothing more to do with him. Even the chief priests and elders he’d joined in conspiring against Jesus were dismissive toward him, since they were done using him to get what they wanted. Plus, the bargain he’d struck with them hadn’t paid him enough to make it worth his while. Was he sorry? Yes, sorry that everybody was mad at him. Sorry enough to wish things could somehow go back to the way they were before.
But wishing you hadn’t done something, when the wishing is only for selfish reasons, does not resolve regret. It’s not the same as repentance. Being sorry you got caught, sorry that you’re hurting, sorry this is making you look bad—that’s not how people work through, out of, and beyond their sin. It’s how they become trapped inside their sin, in cycles of “sin/confess, sin/confess”—without ever experiencing any change. Never any difference.
The sin in your life may have done some damage to your name, at least among certain people who’ve been affected by it. Yet the opportunity for a name change still lies before you if you want your name to stand for something good—for something better.
Own your sin. Repent of your sin. Stop feeling sorry for what your sin has done to you, and you’ll go down in history as someone who did the right thing about your wrong things.
Father in heaven, I have sinned against You. I confess today that too often I’ve only been affected by how my sin has hurt me. But now I admit that the things I’ve done have hurt other people. Forgive me for this selfishness. Forgive me for not accepting responsibility for what’s true. May my repentance be full and rightly focused, so that You can do Your gracious work of restoring what’s been broken. I pray this in the redeeming name of Jesus, amen.